Fluoride is a natural mineral that is routinely added to local water supplies at safe levels to help improve oral health. Water fluoridation was introduced in Brisbane in 2008 and is considered a safe and cost-effective measure to help lower the risk of tooth decay in the population, especially children.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in support of water fluoridation in Australia and worldwide, scepticism and myths about the process still abound. Here are the facts about fluoride and your health.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
Tooth decay remains a serious problem in Australia, particularly for children whose teeth are still developing and are more prone to damage. As well as leading to cavities and fillings, tooth decay can lead to more serious infections or affect the development of permanent teeth.
Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay in several ways. When it's left on your teeth surfaces or mixes with saliva, fluoride can help to:
- Strengthen teeth, making them more resistant to decay
- Restrict the growth of decay-causing bacteria
- Remineralise teeth to repair minor damage
Fluoride is naturally present in many foods in small amounts, but the main sources are drinking water, fluoride toothpaste (which shouldn't be swallowed) and treatments applied by a dental hygienist during routine dental visits.
Parts of Queensland that do not practise water fluoridation, due to the cost or other concerns, have recorded significantly higher rates of tooth decay than fluoridated areas – in some cases up to 2.5 times greater. Young children, the elderly and indigenous communities are particularly at risk.
What are the risks of fluoride?
Critics of water fluoridation claim all manner of negative health effects, but these have failed to be substantiated by rigorous studies. Reviews of evidence in 2014 and 2015 confirmed that there was no evidence of any health issues arising from water fluoridation at the levels currently used in Queensland.
One possible consequence for children under the age of 8 who consume excess fluoride is developing fluorosis. This is a cosmetic condition that can cause white spots to appear on the surfaces of their teeth, and does not affect their oral health or general health.
Fluorosis is not likely to happen when consuming water at normal levels, but children may be at risk if they frequently swallow toothpaste. Fluoride in Brisbane water supplies is carefully maintained at safe and beneficial levels between 0.6 and 0.8 parts per million (ppm).
More ways to protect children's teeth
Combined with good daily brushing and flossing, a healthy diet and regular dental visits, drinking fluoridated tap water can help you and your family to maintain healthy teeth and gums for life.
Your child's dentist may also recommend other preventive care to lower their oral health risks, such as fissure sealants to fill pits and grooves in their molars or a custom mouthguard to protect their teeth during sports.
Talk to a dentist in Everton Park or Mitchelton
If you have more questions about your oral health or your child's teeth, make an appointment at your local Swish Dental clinic in Brisbane today. Call our dentists in Everton Park on (07) 3355 1422 or our dentists in Mitchelton on (07) 3354 3341.